Monday, June 01, 2015

News bites (Plus: The return of "progressive" Clinton-phobia!)

NSA Freedom Day! The phone metadata provisions have expired. Kinda hate to admit it, but we have Rand Paul to thank for this.
The expiration of three key provisions of the Patriot Act means that, for now, the N.S.A. will no longer collect newly created logs of Americans’ phone calls in bulk. It also means that the F.B.I. cannot invoke the Patriot Act to obtain, for new investigations, wiretap orders that follow a suspect who changes phones, wiretap orders for a “lone wolf” terrorism suspect not linked to a group, or court orders to obtain business records relevant to an investigation.
But don't do a jig just yet, since Congress is looking for a way to unleash the beast once more.

Jeb wants you to work more. As George Carlin warned us: They're comin' for your Social Security. Jeb Bush seems to be under the impression that he can increase his popularity if he asks Americans to work more.
“We need to look over the horizon and begin to phase in, over an extended period of time, going from 65 to 68 or 70,” he added. “And that, by itself, will help sustain the retirement system for anybody under the age of 40.”

At the same time, Bush said that he would be open to cutting back benefits for wealthy people and their beneficiaries, a reform proposal known as means testing.
As always, our candidates and our media refuse to mention the easiest way to make Social Security solvent forever: Raising the cap.

Has the Democratic Party gone too far to the left? That is what the NYT tried to argue in an instantly-infamous editorial, which plays to the fears of all Dems old enough to recall McGovern's loss in 1972. Two Salon pieces offer the necessary counter-argument. The better of the two is by Paul Rosenberg:
Put simply, the last two Democratic presidents tried running to the center and while it worked like a charm to get them elected, it proved disastrous soon after. Both governed perpetually on the defensive, despite winning re-election rather comfortably
Electing a Dem president who governs as a moderate Republican is bad enough, but that's not the real problem. The real problem is that a drone-happey Dem like Obama --someone who always seems to be angrier at his left-wing base than at his blood enemies on the right -- makes the entire brand seem unattractive.
The fruits of these two “successful” two-term Democratic presidents were sketched out by Sean Trende and David Byler at Real Clear Politics, in an article bluntly titled,”The GOP Is the Strongest It’s Been in Decades.” Their analysis was based on an index including Congress (House and Senate), the presidency, and governors and state legislatures, who are usually foolishly ignored. Still, in the end, everything hinges on those two “centrist” triumphs, which turned out to be anything but, each failing to rally and inspire supporters with the governance that followed, resulting in sweeping losses...
Back in 2008, I predicted that things would shake out this way. Not that anyone noticed.
Looking forward to 2016, if Democrats are to break through this current condition of GOP strength — if they’re to have any chance of retaking Congress, making gains in state legislatures and implementing policies that will improve their standing over time, they will need to move unambiguously to the left.
There are three main reasons that running left makes sense. The first is pragmatic: Progressive economics works, while conservative economics does not. The second is pragmatic in a different sense: “moving to the center” doesn’t work as a political move for Democrats, no matter how much they wish that it did. The third reason illuminates things even more: the public is already more liberal than Democrats realize — even willing to support things that Democrats haven’t dared propose. Let’s consider each of these reasons in more detail.
I think we can use the abortion debate as a test here. For as long as I can recall, there has been an infuriatingly immovable 50/50 split on that issue -- yet now, the pro-choice position has pushed significantly ahead.  This surge tells us that younger people favor the more liberal position, and we have good reason to believe that younger people favor a lot of other liberal stances as well. Moreover, I suspect that this generation may not calcify into conservatism as the years pass, as previous generations were wont to do. Why would the Dems alienate a growing progressive majority?

Every time right-wing politicians say something bizarre to placate the fundamentalist psychopaths in their party base, Democrats gain more political space to be Democrats.

The return of "progressive" Clinton-phobia: I am much less impressed by the way Conor Lynch addresses the issue.
Wehner’s observations are correct, Obama is certainly more of a liberal than Clinton was; but that is not saying very much.
In what universe is that true?

Bill Clinton fought for a much better health care system than the one Obama gave us. Clinton was loathe to involve us in foreign wars, his NSA observed at least some limits, his SEC did at least some good, he preserved the Community Reinvestment Act against strong opposition, he gave enormous help to millions of poor working people with the Earned Income Tax Credit, and -- most importantly -- he raised taxes on the wealthy (in contrast to Obama, who preserved the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy). Let's also not forget that Clinton's government was infinitely more transparent. You didn't see Bill Clinton jailing whistleblowers by the truckload, and I strongly doubt that Clinton would have used drones with Obama-esque abandon.

Lynch agrees with the original NYT editorialist, who wrote of Obama: "He has focused far more on income inequality than did Mr. Clinton, who stressed opportunity and mobility." Why the focus on mere rhetoric? What counts is money. Incomes were, in fact, more equal under Clinton (thanks in large measure to those more progressive tax rates), while inequality has soared under Obama. So who is kidding whom here?

While reading this piece, I thought: The motherfucking idiot who wrote this tripe is going to repeat the Big Lie about Glass-Steagall, isn't he? Yup!
Today, 40 years into the neoliberal era, conservative economic policies that were embraced by Bill Clinton have proven to be quite profitable for the upper classes, but disastrous for everyone else. This is especially true in the case of Clinton’s signing of the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 — which threw out the remaining laws of the Glass-Stragall [sic] Act — and the Clinton administration’s refusal to regulate financial derivatives.
Horseshit. All of it. Horseshit. (Since when does raising taxes on the wealthy count as "conservative" or "neoliberal"?)

Let's say it yet again: The person most responsible for replacing the Glass-Steagall regs with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was Phil Gramm. In a strongly Republican Congress, Gramm's measure was so popular that it was going to pass by a veto-proof majority.

Let me ask you, Conor -- may I call you Conor? Or would you prefer Motherfucking Idiot? Very well. Let me ask you, Mr. Motherfucking Idiot, this one simple question: What part of the words "veto-proof majority" do you not understand?

I talked about Gramm's Act in this 2008 post. That was the year when Obama-adoring progressives (remember how they assured us that Mr. O was the New Messiah?) first started to spread the Big Lie.
When forced to confront the inconvenient fact that I have just now put into boldfaced letters, the progs retreat to a more weasle-like position: "Yeah, well, Bill Clinton did nothing to fight it." Anglachel digs up contemporary reports to demonstrate that, in fact, he did. Here's the bottom line:
So what do we see in this contemporaneous report? That the White House had been pushing back on this act for months. That certain Congressional Dems, Dodd and Schumer foremost, explicitly wanted to kill Glass-Steagall. That the White House fought them as well as Gramm on this issue. That the White House rallied Democrats to present a solid front to the measure, requiring that the CRA be protected, which some Congressional Dems were just as happy to toss out along with all other protections.
"CRA" stands for Community Reinvestment Act, a 1977 law which helped minorities get home loans. Clinton fought to get the best deal that he could, but gale-force political winds were against him.

Yes, you can blame the repeal of Glass-Steagall on Democrats -- not all of them, perhaps not the majority of 'em, but a good number of 'em. But you can't blame Bill Clinton. Blaming Bill Clinton is like blaming Raoul Wallenberg for not defeating the Wehrmacht single-handed.
Mr. Motherfucking Idiot's piece continues in that vein. It's almost as ridiculous as the NYT editorial which gave rise to it.
Comments:
Joe,

Resorting to ad hominem attacks against someone, debating the man rather than debating the matter, makes you look like an idiot who is a far right stooge. You continue to insist on defending the Democratic Party and its universally awful nomination choices, including Bill Cliton and Barack Obama, two of the worst presidents this country has ever seen. Not only are they two of the worst presidents for the USA, they are two of the worst in world history overall. They are weak dunces, near powerless pawns, lack any vision or will of their own and don't come near a donkey's ass in being classified as statesman.

I can only assume you wish to continue to defend the Clinton cabinet and the Obama cabinet and the Democratic Party because you want to have something left to believe in. This, despite the fact that the Democratic Party today is so extremely far to the right, economically, that the NSDAP led by Adolf Hitler looked, on the economic spectrum, like Hitler was deep throating Lenin. And that is despite the intense anticommunism and antisocialism of the NSDAP and its violent persecution of leftists of any stripe. Yet still, on the economic scale, the NSDAP was far left to the contempotary Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is so far right that it's hurled itself, Highlander style, off the Cliffs of Insanity.

What Bill Clinton should have done, what he could have done, despite the assurance that, in both Houses, the Glass Steagall Act would be repealed, was to still veto it. To veto it as a symbolic act, as a way of letting the public and history know that he didn't agree with this, veto overrides be damned. The Republican Congress, which controls everything in this country, has repeatedly repealed the Affordable Care Act as well as other legislations, which have no chance of beating an Executive veto override, as a symbolic gesture. In the same way that Texas has refused to repeal any of its sodomy laws, as a symbolic gesture that de facto, maybe not de jure if not possible, de fact it is a Christian culture and society that is far, far, far, far right.

Now for a bit of a history lesson, since Joseph seems oblivious to the New Deal program and who really began demolishing it to give way to the neoliberal economics that has dominated the United States since 1978. FDR had grand plans to go beyond the New Deal after World War II, though he wouldn't survive the War's end. For FDR and his plans for America, the New Deal was only the beginning. Those plans were sidelined and forgotten by Truman and all subsequent Presidents. Slowly but surely, the New Deal was being dismantled by every successive administration but who really began taking a wrecking ball to the New Deal was Jimmy Carter, followed up by Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Jimmy Carter's administration represents the real betrayal of the New Deal and to New Deal Democrats, like myself, by the increasingly malignant Democratic Party. By the time of Bill Clinton, the only pieces of the New Deal left were the Social Security Administration and the Glass Steagall Act. The latter would be done away with and Barack Obama has put on the table, for future Presidents, plans to further weaken the SSA.

The fact that you continue to defend Clinton, Obama and the current Democratic Party, an ultraright, ultranationlist party, is deeply disturbing and shows your own ignorance of history, modernity and present realities.

J.
 
Assuming the NSA or any other three-letter agency of this government is beholden to the laws passed by the kabuki theater that is the legislature seems kind of childish and naive at this point. The true power will be neither curtailed nor controlled by its subjects, regardless of whatever lies the state-controlled, er, corporate-controlled media may disseminate.
 
"As always, our candidates and our media refuse to mention the easiest way to make Social Security solvent forever: Raising the cap."

It's simply impossible to get this simple fact through to the political Left: SS is a "universal" program in that everybody gets back a benefit proportional to their contribution. The contribution limit is capped and SO IS THE BENEFIT. FDR drafted Social Security this way because he knew that Americans would not support a program that sent a fat check to John D. Rockefeller every month.

So: are you support of sending a big government check to the Koch Brothers by lifting the cap? Or do you want to destroy the universality of Social Security and kill its political support? Pick one, chief.

 
"Blaming Bill Clinton is like blaming Raoul Wallenberg for not defeating the Wehrmacht single-handed."

As you said in an earlier thread, Joe: It never stops. As for the CRA? Republicans have been eager to blame Clinton's support of the CRA as the sole underpinning of the 2007-08 economic crash. It was those devious homeowners that done it, brought the whole House of Cards of robo-signings and wads of corruption and malfeasance down on the heads of honest Wall St. brainiacs and mortgage priests.

As for the Democratic Party going too far Left? If only that were true. But in a world where a Bernie Sanders feels compelled to call himself a socialist, the definition of 'Left" has been irreparably skewed. FDR must be flip-flopping in his grave.

Peggysue.
 
I seem to recall Clinton making some sort of announcement about a pen he was going to use to reform healthcare. I definitely remember him giving up without achieving anything, sure Obama has to get some credit for actually getting something done, even if it wasn't very good.

And of course the wars he didn't get you into were just replaced with cowardly aerial massacres, such as the half a million dead in Iraq and the destruction of Yugoslavia. Just as evil as anything Bush did, although some might say not as badly executed.
 
Well said. I must steal a paragraph for a link for one of my routine "Lest We Forget" posts.
 
J, I don't mind the occasional ad hominum attack as long as it comes festooned with an actual, fact-based argument. (And as long as the insults are not directed toward me on my own damned blog.) Clinton got the annual budget into the black by raising taxes on the wealthy. If that's weakness, I say let's have more of the stuff.

Your idea of vetoing the Gramm act as a symbolic gesture proves only one thing: You are white and privileged. Clinton did what he did because it was the only way to protect the CRA (which was under HEAVY fire at the time) and because the Gramm thing was going to pass anyways. If you were a black homeowner or small business owner, you would have said "Screw symbolism." If you think that black lives should be sacrificed in order to maintain a purity with no actual, practical value...

Well, I believe that the term I used was "Motherfucking Idiot." I will continue to use that term because it is more than warranted.

Stephen, are you out of your mind? "I definitely remember him giving up without achieving anything..." You need a few more memory sticks. Clinton expended nearly all of his political capital, and was subjected to a blistering attack on health care the likes of which I've not seen before or since. The propaganda completely turned the country around. When a good, semi-socialistic health care plan was put on the ballot in true-blue California the next year, only about 25 percent of a very liberal electorate voted for it. THAT was the political climate at the time.

Anon: Raising the cap on Social Security will solve a lot of problems and cause none. Stop blowing smoke.

Peggysue: Thank you for your common sense. To this day, there are still dummies who will tell you that the CRA compelled banks to give loans to anyone who could fog a mirror. I've read the law: Nothing in it has ever required any financial institution to make a bad loan. And it is certainly the case that nothing in that Act ever compelled banks to repackage and resell bizarre new financial instruments and label them AAA even though they were backed by crap.


 
"Anon: Raising the cap on Social Security will solve a lot of problems and cause none. Stop blowing smoke."

Oh! Silly me to provide context to my reasoning. Next time I'll just say: "that's stupid."

 
Stephen, I've reconsidered. You say "I definitely remember him giving up without achieving anything..." This is true -- technically. But only in the sense that one could say the same thing of the survivors of Pickett's Charge.
 
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